“Thaam thu paarshve sthitaam prabhavam
Raamah samprekshya Mythileem
Vyaahartumupachakramae” describes Sage Valmiki, author of Ramayana, in the opening sloka of 115th Sarga of Yuddhakaanda:
The daughter of the king of Mithila (Mythili), namely, Sita was standing by the side of Sri Rama exuding respect and humility. On seeing her in a state of great composure, Sri Rama thought it fit to express what was lurking at the bottom of the heart.
“Auspicious one!” he said to her, “I have just redeemed you from the clutches of the enemy by scoring a victory over the inimical force! I have achieved whatever was required to be achieved with courage.”
He proceeded to tell Sita all that he did to fulfill his objectives:
“Gato-asmyantamamarshasya dharshanaa sampramaarjitaa,
Avamaanashcha shatrushcha yugapannihatow mayaa”
“I have put an end to the flame of provocation that took genesis in me. I have also washed the insult caused to me of the abduction of my consort. In one stroke, I liquidated the dual spectre of the insult and the enemy. The death of the enemy is the vanishing point of the insult to which I was exposed.”
“All have now witnessed my valour. Whatever I did to erase the insult has borne fruit. I have now fulfilled my vow and promise and divested myself of its weighty obligation. I am now free.”
“When you were without the protection of Lakshmana and mine, the rakshasa with the wavering mind abducted you. As an ordinary man, I have overpowered the divinely ordained stigma.”
“Which man endowed with only a modicum spiritual glow (alpa thejas) will be able to achieve in life anything for that matter, if he fails, with his strength and capacity, to get rid of the insult hurled at him?”
That was Rama’s mark of interrogation!
“Hanuman’s airy dash across the ocean, his destruction of Lanka and other praiseworthy deeds have reached the point of a fitting conclusion and result. Sugreeva leading the army showed not only enormous strength and bravery in the battle, but also gave valuable suggestions to me from time to time. His efforts have also brought results now. Vibheeshana, forsaking his elder brother of bad qualities, came to me and fought for my victory. His efforts too have borne fruit.”
Sita’s eyes become wet
The various descriptions of victory and the like by Rama made Sita’s endearing eyes, wide as those of a young deer, wet. He was physically so near his bosom love but mentally far as he kept on looking at Sita, overpowered as he was by the apprehensions of public disapprobation, if he accepted her. His mind was rattled. He continued to clear his image by making a clean breast of all that transpired during Sita’s absence from his ashram.
“Sita!” said Rama addressing the lotus-eyed, black and curly haired beauty in the midst of Vanara and rakshasa army, “whatever duty was cast on a man to get rid of the insult caused to him. I have performed that duty and completed the task. I have successfully redeemed you from the bondage of the enemy.”
“Agastya Maharshi spotting a kind feeling generated by thapas destroyed the demons Ilvala and Vaataapi who had conquered the Southern Region only to bring relief to the inhabitants of the place. In the same way, I have destroyed Ravana and successfully recovered you from his possession.”
Suspicion stares at Sita!
“Personification of safety! Let there be auspicious forebodings to you! You have to know an important matter, The efforts that I put into the war and the victory I secured with the help of friends were not for your sake,” said Rama.
“Rakshataa thu mayaa vrittam-apavaadam cha sarvashaha,
Prakhyaatasya-amavavamshasya nyangam cha parirakshataa”
(Ra.Yuddha Ka. Sa. 115; Sl, 16)
With the above sloka, Rama explains his own image, the damage caused to its frame and restoration of the image:
“In order to safeguard my personal character to remove the stigma with which my name would have been smeared, namely, that of ‘one who could not punish the abductors of the spouse and to erase the bad name acquired by my family having the reputation of the punisher of the wicked and champion of the downtrodden’, I killed Ravana and freed you.”
In every word and in every syllable that Sri Rama used to explain his innate feelings and impressions, the dominant note that becomes self-evident is his illimitable concern for righteousness and the need for maintenance of an unimpeachable record of personal history (Sat-chaaritra). Not only the behavior pattern should be irreproachable but also should merit public scrutiny and approbation. What a king does should not suffer public disclaim. What anyone does should not raise even a penumbra of suspicion. That Sri Rama was worried about possibilities of public ridicule even in instances of there being no room for doubt or suspicion is self-evident from the 17th sloka, 115th Sarga of Yuddha Kanda in Ramayana:-
Praapta-chaaitra sandehaa mama pratimukhe sthitaa,
Deepa netraaturasyeva pratikoolasi me dhridam:
“Having stayed in a third party’s house for a long time, you have acquired such disreputation that anyone may suspect your purity. You are standing here in my presence with a polluted record. Just as an eye patient cannot see the light of a lamp, in the same way you appear to me as if you are suffering from that disadvantage.”
Bolt from the blue:
“Therefore, Janaki!” said Rama, “I give you permission to go anywhere you like. You can proceed in any of the ten directions you desire. I do not have to do anything through you:
Thadgachha tawaanujaanedya yatheshtam Janakaatmaje
Etaa dasha disho bhadre kaaryamasti no mae twayaa,”
To SIta it was most unkind cut of all. It was bolt from the blue. If she had conjured up visions of a happy reunion after the redoubtable victory over the rakshasas preceded by the death of Indrajit, Kumbhakarana and Ravana, she was not correct! Her hopes were dashed to the ground. Far from receiving from Rama encomium for her blemishless stay in Ravana’s Ashoka Vana, she had the distressing mortification of hearing harsh and uncharitable words. In a place watched by all and the blazing gaze of the public, she had the ignominy of receiving of what may well be construed as a sentence of death – a sentence of death for no fault or crime committed by her physically, or intellectually – from the emperor-designate of Ayodhya. That was her shock transcending description That was the great dame’s distress!
Rama’s piercing words
Sri Rama proceeded to hurl more piercing words at Sita
“Kah pumaanhi kule jaataha striyam paragrihashitaam,
Thejaswee punaraadadyaatsuhrillobhena chetasaa”
How can anyone, born of a high cultured family and a brave one, be mentally miserly enough to accept a woman who has stayed in another man’s house for a number of days with the claim, “she was with me for a very long time. She is very dear to me?”
Rama brings an argument here that although a woman might have stayed and lived with the husband for a number of years, decades in bonds of mutual love and affection, it does not by that yardstick or criterion entitle him to accept and take her back, if she has stayed away in another one’s for a short period. The stigma associated with such an acceptance is more in a high circle family like that of the royal family to which Rama belonged. Whatever may his strength, courage or power, he cannot have the cheek to say she is acceptable on grounds of very long and affectionate association in the past. The past record, according to the suggestion of the emperor-designate put a premium on present status of reproach!
The next sloka is even more significant in so far as he chooses to accuse Sita directly with a suspicious record:
Katham tvaam punaraadadyaam kulam
You have been polluted by the touch of Ravana’s thigh and by took of his evil eyes. How can I ever take you back again when I am known to be descendant of an illustrious family and when my family commands a respectful line of descent?” He continued:
“It was my obligation to free you from the clutches of the enemy in order to erase the insult of abduction and to remove the family taint unceremoniously. I have fought a war, killed the enemy and recovered you. Thus I have fulfilled my vow.”
Sri Rama did not stop there! Words that emerged from his lips caused excruciating pain to Sita’s mind:
“At this moment,” he said to Sita, “I do not have either love for or interest in you. Hence you may go anywhere you wish. Yatheshtam gamyathaamitaha.”
That he was correct in his decision and positive in determination was also spelt out by him.
“I have already thought over this deeply and come to this unhesitating conclusion. I am constrained to tell you accordingly. If you are going to be internally happy, you may stay under the shade of Lakshmana, Bharata or Shatrughna.
Alternatively, you may decide about staying in Sugreeva’s or Vibheeshana’s camp under their support.
“Sita!” concluded Sri Rama, “It could be difficult to imagine that Ravana was able to control his desire for such a long time as that especially when he was frequently looking at an incomparable beauty like you living in his own place, one who was endowed with a divine countenance and exterior.” Apparently, knowing what Ravana was, it passed Rama’s comprehension. He rejected Sita.
Sita’s expectations were, however, great. She had not seen her lord a long time and had been longing to meet him and hear loving words from him. An endearing attitude expected of him yielded place to the harshest words of expression. like a tender creeper smothered by the hardness of an elephantine trunk, the harsh words shrank her tender frame and heightened her agony. Unable to bear it, she burst into tears.
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